Building owner John Wilson of JMW Construction attempts to shut off the leak Wednesday morning after thieves made off with an enormous brass regulator valve and heavy copper pipes, leaving the Ahwatukee Foothills News without water for much of the day. Ari Cohn/AFN

A brazen thief sawed off and hauled away a large outdoor water valve along 51st Street Wednesday morning, cutting off water service to your Ahwatukee Foothills News for much of the morning until a replacement valve could be installed.

Staff of the newspaper, at 51st Street north of Elliot Road, discovered the building had no water service just before 9 a.m. The water was off in the neighboring suite, housing Cottam Health Partners chiropractic clinic, as well, said office manager Debbie Rydman.

"What I'm thinking, you can't quote," Rydman said.

The building's owner, John Wilson of JMW Construction, discovered that a backflow preventer valve, which sticks up out of the landscaping along 51st Street, had been removed with an electric saw and hauled away, leaving a pipe leaking a spray of clean water. An identical valve just next to it leaked water from a saw-inflicted gash at its base.

At first, Wilson thought it might have been taken for what he estimated to be the $60 scrap value for its copper tubing and brass. This newspaper recently reported on a couple of incidents of copper theft, such when thieves last month ripped out the tubing in a large air conditioning unit at the Hawg ‘n Dawg Express restaurant, at the southwest corner of Equestrian Trail and Warner/Elliot Loop, and when someone stole half the copper plate entry sign belonging to Desert Garden Montessori School at Warner Road just west of Interstate 10.

But Phoenix Police Department officials say the expensive valve, potentially worth hundreds of dollars, might be headed to another job site.

"We don't have any suspect or vehicle description at this time," said Sgt. Dave Reginato.

Wilson said it could cost him $1,500 to repair the two valves and install gates over them.

Joe Crumb, a plumber with Iron Horse Companies, which had completed the repairs by early afternoon, said such valves can be worth up to $400 apiece.

Anyone with information can call the Phoenix Crime Stop hotline at (602) 262-6151 and the Ahwatukee Foothills News at (480) 898-7914.

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